A Radical Departure in Foreign-Language Teaching by Caleb Zilmer

A Radical Departure in Foreign-Language Teaching

In this article in The Language Educator, Oregon teacher Caleb Zilmer wonders why so many adults who took a language in school don’t remember more than how to ask directions to the nearest bathroom. Did they lack intelligence or the knack for learning a language? Did they study the language after the magic age of eight? What happened to all those hours of work? Zilmer offers these basic principles for an approach he believes will make a language stick:

Focus on meaning rather than grammar. The key is pushing for 100 percent of classroom discourse conducted in the target language, including attendance, giving out homework, jokes, and of course instruction. This puts the emphasis on communication and fluency. Students will make mistakes – what they need is a “sympathetic listener,” says Zilmer. “Students quickly learn that self-correction goes hand-in-hand with working through communication… As proficiency increases, so does the need for accuracy, and learners become more capable of attending to accuracy with greater proficiency.” 

Create a safe environment for experimentation. Students’ experiences and stories, not the textbook, become the focus of the curriculum, and a free-flowing dialogue creates the kind of climate that builds enthusiasm, ownership, and fluency. In this format, groupings are fluid and desks are not in straight rows. In fact, students may be on their feet talking in small groups a good part of the time. 

Instruction and assessment inform one another. “With every interaction with students every day, teachers are attending to how students’ productions look and sound,” says Zilmer. “Depending on what is most appropriate… teachers either instruct in the moment or save thoughts to share later. Thus, assessment happens in the moment, as does instruction.” 

A teacher had this to say about Zilmer’s approach: “It is 100% unconventional and 100% effective. It makes sense, and because it makes sense, it will work. Not to mention it’s a blast.” 

“90% Target Language, Authentic Texts, No Isolated Grammar? How?” by Caleb Zilmer in The Language Educator, April 2013 (Vol. 8, #3, p. 26-29), no e-link available

From the Marshall Memo #483

 

Views: 423

Comment

You need to be a member of School Leadership 2.0 to add comments!

Join School Leadership 2.0

FOLLOW SL 2.0

JOIN SL 2.0

SUBSCRIBE TO

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP 2.0

School Leadership 2.0 is the premier virtual learning community for school leaders from around the globe.  Our community is a subscription based paid service ($19.95/year)  which will provide school leaders with outstanding resources. Learn more about membership to this service by clicking one our links below.

 

Click HERE to subscribe as an individual.

 

Click HERE to learn about group membership (i.e. association, leadership teams)

CREATE AN EMPLOYER PROFILE AND GET JOB ALERTS AT 

SCHOOLLEADERSHIPJOBS.COM

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP 2.0 EVENTS

Amazon/SL 2.0 Book Store

School Leadership 2.0

© 2019   Created by William Brennan and Michael Keany   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service